Tag Archives: Olympic

November and December New Stamps

The Hanford B Reactor in Washington is one of three sites comprising the brand new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
The Hanford B Reactor in Washington is one of three sites comprising the brand new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Photo credit: NPS.gov

I wasn’t able to get a new stamps post out last month, so here are the new additions reported by Eastern National for both November and December, starting with the new stamps for the actual Units of the National Park System:

Manhattan Project NHP | Los Alamos, NM

Manhattan Project NHP | Oak Ridge, TN

Manhattan Project NHP | Hanford, WA

Potomac Heritage NST | Rock Creek Park, DC

Lowell NHP | Guard Locks / Francis Gate

National Parks of Southern West Virginia | West Virginia

The big news this month is the official addition of Manhattan Project National Historical Park to the National Park System, bringing the total number of national parks to 409.  This new national park will be unique in having three separate locations, scattered almost clear across the country from each other.  In Oak Ridge, Tennessee  the park will include the research facilities that were used to pioneer the process of uranium enrichment.  They can currently be visited from June through August on a regular weekday tour offered at noon daily by the American Museum of Science and Energy.   In Hanford, Washington the park includes numerous historic buildings associated with the top secret Manhattan Project.  The most notable of these is the Hanford B Reactor that produced the material for the first atomic bomb, and which can be visited as part of a four hour tour offerred regularly from April to September.   Finally, the sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico include historic buildings associated with the design and assembly of both the Trinity test site bomb, as well as the “Little Boy” bomb that was ultimately dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

The Civil War Defenses Trail passes through Rock Creek Park and connects to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
The Civil War Defenses Trail passes through Rock Creek Park and connects to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.  This segment of the trail is from the Fort DeRussy Unit near the Rock Creek Park Nature Center.  Photo from 2013.

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail has added a new stamp for Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, which is itself its own national park.   Surprisingly, Rock Creek Park isn’t particularly close to the Potomac River, located about two miles away at its closest point.  However, the Civil War Defenses of Washington Trail, which passes through Rock Creek Park, is a connecting trail to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.  The addition of this cancellation gives the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail a whopping 46 cancellations along the trail network.

Lowell National Historical Park preserves the story of the Industrial Revolution in a historic mill town outside of Boston.  In recent years, several other national parks telling the story of the Industrial Revolution have been established, most of which have cited the success of Lowell NHP as a model.  One of the remarkable features about Lowell NHP is the system of canals that were established to connect water from the Merrimack River to the various factories and cotton mills in the town.   The Guard Locks at the Francis Gate are at the NPS-managed lockhouse along one of those canals, and this stamp replaces an existing stamp at that location.

The New River comprises one of the three National Parks of Southern West Virginia. This photo is from a time of especially high water levels in 2004.
The New River comprises one of the three National Parks of Southern West Virginia. This photo is from a time of especially high water levels in 2004.

Finally, the National Parks of Southern West Virginia is a new group and re-branding of the New River Gorge National River, the Gauley River National Recreation Area, and the Bluestone National Scenic River.  All thee of these river-based national parks are located within a fifty-mile stretch of each other, about 30-60 miles east of Charleston, West Virginia.  The centerpiece of the three parks is the New River Gorge National River, which contains most of the visitor facilities and the must-see scenic landmarks, as well as great whitewater rafting for all skill levels.  The Gauley River National Recreation Area is designated downstream of the Summersville Dam.  It is famed for its dam-release days in the fall, when the release of water from the dam produces some of the most-challenging whitewater east of the Mississippi River in the United States.   Finally, the Bluestone National Scenic River is a completely undeveloped stretch of river that has been left largely in its natural state.

These three national rivers have always been managed by a single Superintendent.  However, there’s long been concern that the designations national river and national scenic river and national recreation area don’t always strongly suggest national park or National Park Service to the casual visitor or tourist.  The hope is that the rebranding as National Parks of Southern West Viginia will bring more attention to the fact that these rivers, particularly the New River Gorge, are part the U.S. National Park System.

The Santa Fe Trail Marker in the Plaza de Santa Fe, located just outside the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Three new stamps were issued here this month.
The Santa Fe Trail Marker in the Plaza de Santa Fe, located just outside the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Three new stamps were issued here this month.  Photo from 2010.

In addition to the above stamps, a few stamps have also been released for National Park Service partnership programs.

Mississippi Delta NHA | Delta Blues Museum

Pacific Northwest NST | Sedro-Wooley, WA

Pacific Northwest NST | Whitefish, MT

Old Spanish NHT | Palace of the Governors, NM

Old Spanish NHT | New Mexico History Museum, NM

Santa Fe NHT | New Mexico History Museum, NM

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area includes 18 counties in northwest Mississippi.  This area of Mississippi is, of course, most famous for being the home of the musical style known as the blues.  The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi is Mississippi’s oldest music museum, and tells the story of how the blues originated in northwest Mississippi’s cultural landscape.

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is a relatively new National Scenic Trail, having just been designated in 2009.  The trail’s designated route extends from Olympic National Park in Washington to Glacier National Park in Montana.  These are its first Passport stamps, and will be at the headquarters of the Trail’s non-profit partner association in the town of Sedro-Woolley, Washington and at the offices of the Montana Wilderness Association in the town of Whitefish, Montana.

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail and Santa Fe National Historic Trail commemorate 19th Century trading routes with New Mexico, to California and to the United States, respectively.  The Palace of the Governors was originally built for Spain’s administration of New Mexico in Santa Fe, and is now part of the New Mexico State History Museum, the main building of which is located next door.  The Santa Fe Trail had previously already been issued a stamp for the Palace of the Governors, so now both Trails have both stamps.

This month’s additions mean that there now 1,985 active Passport cancellations to collect.  Excluding special event and anniversary cancellations, there are 1,887 cancellations available.

A parting shot of the New River Gorge National River in the National Parks of Southern West Virginia. Photo credit: NPS.gov
A parting shot of the New River Gorge National River in the National Parks of Southern West Virginia. Photo credit: NPS.gov
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August Stamps from Alaska to the Chesapeake Bay

Denali National Park & Preserve has one new stamp this month.  Photo from 2008.
Denali National Park & Preserve has one new stamp among the huge stack of new stamps  this month. Photo from 2008.

 

There is a huge stack of new stamps this month.

    First the stamps for actual units of the National Park System:

      • Waco Mammoth National Monument | Waco, TX
      • Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area | LIttle Brewster Island
      • Olympic National Park – Sol Duc Hot Springs
      • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore | N. Manitou Island
    Next are a number of stamps for Trails and Heritage Areas:

      • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT | Big Break
      • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT | Ford Ord NM
      • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT | Monterrey, CA
      • Trail of Tears NHT | Historic Blythe Ferry
          Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT |

            • Belle Isle State Park
            • Caledon State Park
            • Chippokes Plantation State Park
            • First Landing State Park
            • Kiptopeke State Park
            • Leesylvania State Park
            • Mason Neck State Park
            • Chickahominy Riverfront Park
            • Henricus Historical Park
            • James City County, VA
            • Mathews, VA
            • Reedville, VA
            • Vienna,  MD
          Champlain Valley National Heritage Parntership |

            • American Museum of Fly Fishing
            • ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
            • Green Mountain National Forest
            • Saratoga National Historical Park
    Then there a group of stamps all issued for the same location:

      • Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network | Port Tobacco, MD
      • Potomac Heritage NST | Port Tobacoo, MD
      • Star-Spangled Banner NHT | Port Tobacoo, MD
      • Underground Railroad Freedom Network | Port Tobacco, MD
      • Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route NHT | Port Tobacco, MD
    Finally, there are a few other new stamps to repot:

      • Nine new stamps (one for each region) for National Park Travelers Club Member Meet-Ups
      • Denali Park Kennels | Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Waco Mammoth National Monument is the newest unit of the National Park System. Photo Credit: E. Wilson
Waco Mammoth National Monument is the newest unit of the National Park System. Photo Credit: E. Wilson

Waco Mammoth National Monument is the newest unit of the U.S. National Park System – so this is its first stamp.  You can read more about it in the Parkasaurus Post on it.

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area preserves almost all of the off-shore islands in Boston Harbor, including a few that are now connected to the mainland.   The stamp for Little Brewster Island is the fifth active stamp for this park.  It joins a stamp for “Boston, MA” on the mainland at Long Wharf in dowtown Boston, as well as stamps  for Georges Island, Peddocks Island, and Spectacle Island.   The 34 islands that comprise this park include a mix of natural scenery, historic resources related to 19th century harbor defenses, and outstanding recreational opportunities.  Little Brewster Island is the most-distant of the four islands with stamps, located some 8 miles from downtown Boston.

(As a side note, it should be noted that Boston Harbor Islands NRA previously had a stamp for the Gateway Pavillion information center in downtown Boston, but that stamp has not been available since 2013.   Meanwhile, according to the Park map there are Ranger Stations on at least four other islands, so this park may yet add additional stamps in the months and years to come.)

The Sol Duc Falls are among the scenic highlights near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park.  Photo from 2003.
The Sol Duc Falls are among the scenic highlights near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park. Photo from 2003.

Olympic National Park is one of the true gems of the U.S. National Park System, located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.   This stamp for the concessionarie at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is one of 14 cancellations available around this large national park.  The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is located in the temperate forests on the northern side of the park in the valley of the Sol Duc River.

The new stamps for North Manitou Island at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore makes for five cancellations at this national park located on the shores of Lake Michigan in the western part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  Three of those stamps are on the mainland, and now there is a stamp for both South Manitou Island and North Manitou Island located off-shore in Lake Michigan.

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail connects sites in Arizona and California along the route taken by de Anza in 1776 to establish the settlement of San Francisco.   Fort Ord National Monument was established by President Obama in 2012 on the former site of the military base of the same name on Monterey Bay.   Thus, this month marks the first two stamps in the Passport Program to be located in the world-famous scenic destination of Monterey, California.   The Big Break Regional Park preserves some of the land on the San Joaquin River Delta at the base of San Francisco Bay.

This month’stamp for the Historic Blythe Ferry is actually the third stamp for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail to be located at Tennessee’s Cherokee Removal Park.  It joins the existing stamps for Meigs County, TN and the stamp added last month for Cherokee Removal MEM Park. TN.

 

Caledon State Park in Virginia is among the many Virginia State Parks receiving a new stamp for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Naitonal HIstoric Trail this month.  Photo from 2012.
Caledon State Park in Virginia is among the many Virginia State Parks receiving a new stamp for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Naitonal HIstoric Trail this month. Photo from 2012.

 

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail marks Smith’s voyages of exploration in the Chesapeake Bay from 1607-1609.   This month, stamps appear to have been added for just about every Virginia State Park located on the Chesapeake Bay.  In addition, Chickahominy Riverfront Park is a local park located in James City County, Virginia.  Henricus Historical Park commemorates a famous #2 – it recreates the second successful English settlement in the New World.  It was established 80 miles up the James River in 1611 by settlers departing from Jamestown.    Mathews County Virginia has a Visitor and Information Center for its network of water trails to explore.  Reedville, Virginia is located at the end of Virginia’s Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay.  Its Fisherman’s Museum is also a stamping location for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.    Vienna, Maryland is the launching point for the Nanticoke River Water Trail, which runs along the Nanticoke River all the way into southern Delaware.

The Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership is a National Heritage Area program for the area around Lake Champlain on the New York – Vermont border, as well as areas to the south around the Champlain Canal and Lake George.  These four additional stamps give it a total of nine passport locations.  Of these four, only the ECHO Leahy Center at the ECHO Lake Aquarium in Burlington, Vermont is located on Lake Champlain itself.   The Green Mountain National Forest is headquartered in Rutland, Vermont to the south, and the American Museum of Fly Fishing is even further south in Manchester, Vermont.  Saratoga National Historical Park is an actual outright national park, and commemorates the decisive American victory that was the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.  Through a quirk of overlapping designations, Saratoga NHP is actually part of three National Heritage Areas, as it is also included in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Thomas Stone National Historic Site in Maryland has expanded its stamp offerings this month!

The Thomas Stone National Historic Site is also an outright national park, located in the small town of Port Tobacco in southern Maryland.   It preserves the home of one of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.  It probably would not have made it in to the National Park System on its own, but for the fact that the house was damaged by fire in 1977, and designation as a national park site the next year was about the only way to save it from the wrecking ball.  The new stamps for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail both replace existing stamps that were already at the site, reflecing both the site’s scenic location on the Potomac River and on the route of the British invasion of Maryland during the War of 1812.   This site also had a generic stamp listing all the states of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, but this its first stamp specific to the site itself.  This trail marks the route of American General George Washington and the French General Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia at the end of the Revolutionary War. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom are two National Park Service partnership programs, reflecting this park’s location on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and as a former plantation were slaves lived, worked, and occasionally, escaped to freedom.

The National Park Travelers Club is a social Club that provides networking for Passport stamp collectors.  They now have nine passport stamps that will be available at their member-meetups, one stamp for each Passport region.

Visit the Denali National Park & Preserve kennels and you could see a sled dog like Annie!  Photo from NPS.gov.
Visit the Denali National Park & Preserve kennels and you could see a sled dog like Annie! Photo from NPS.gov.

Finally, Denali National Park & Preserve is the only national park that is patrolled by dogsled in the winter.  In the summer, the dogsled kennels are open for tours and demonstrations.  The National Park Service has a web page devoted to the kennels, including photos and bios of each of the sled dogs.   A visit to the kennels here is truly a unique national parks experience!   The addition of this stamp gives Denali National Park & Preserve a total of eight passport cancellations.

With this month’s numerous additions there are now 1,948 active Passport cancellations, or 1,851 excluding anniversary and special event cancellations.

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30 for 300 – Honorable Mentions

Well, I should have figured when I first set out to do this series that it would provide to be nearly impossible to pick just 30 favorite moments from the hundreds of visits that I have made to the first 300 national parks that I have already visited.   Or even worse, that I would get to the end and realize, “how could I possibly have left out that?”   So sure enough, I have a few national park memories that got left on the figurative cutting room floor that I just couldn’t leave unmentioned.

Thus, as a postscript to my “30 for 300” series, here are five “honorable mentions” that I just couldn’t leave out.

#5) Searching for Starfish in the Tidepools at Olympic National Park – August 2003
Olympic National Park is often called “three national parks in one” for its combination of rugged alpine scenery, lush temperate rainforests, and spectacular Pacific coastline.  The day after that 20 mile hike I mentioned earlier in this series, I’m not sure which I enjoyed more – seeking out the fabulously colorful starfish like these guys:

Growing up in the Eastern United States, Parkasaurus just isn't used to seeing starfish like this.
Growing up in the Eastern United States, Parkasaurus just isn’t used to seeing starfish like this.

Or else enjoying the absolutely amazing sunset behind the rock spires of the coastline:

They don't make sunsets like this on the Atlantic Coast either...
They don’t make sunsets like this on the Atlantic Coast either…

 

#4) Walking Among the Ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – February 2003
This trip was memorable in large part simply because my friend and I were not supposed to be there.   We were only visiting this Park because a major snowstorm had cancelled all flights to the East Coast, giving us an unexpected extra two days in New Mexico.  Salinas Pueblo Misssions was the first national park I visited that primarily preserves the civilization of the prehistoric pueblo-dwelling peoples, so it will always be special to me for that reason.  What makes Salinas Pueblo MIssions particularly distinctive, however, is that at each of the three prehistoric pueblos preserved in the park, the Spanish had also built a large mission church right in the middle of the pueblo, which is also preserved. Thus, this park preserves the moment of contact between two cultures, and is a place where you can really feel the sweep of history beneath your feet.

#3) Special 100th Anniversary Commemorative Programs at Mesa Verde National Park – June 2006
By the time I visited Mesa Verde National Park three and a half years afte rmy visit to Salinas Pueblo Missions, I had started to become abundantly familiar with the story of the Ancestral Puebloan people, or as they are sometimes called, the Anasazi.  Since the ancient pueblos are largely permanent structures that were built in a desert environment, the U.S. National Park System includes quite a few of them.

Mesa Verde National Park, of course, preserves some of the most-spectacular abandoned Ancestral Puebloan ruins out of all of them.   In 2006, Mesa Verde also celebrated its 100th Anniversary with numerous special programsthroughout the summer.  One program my friends and I were particularly lucky to catch was a Ranger providing costumed interpretation as J. Walter Fewkes, one of the first archaeologists to study the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.

A ranger dressed as archaeologist Jesse Fewkes really helped bring the story of Mesa Verde to life, with the famous Cliff Palace in the background.

 

#2) Rafting with Au Pairs on the New River Gorge National River – June 2003
One of my former co-workers used to be, as he described, a “den mother” for au pairs working in our area.  Essentially this meant that he had some responsibility for looking out for them, helping them deal with any problems they may have, and also organizing a social activity for them each month – so that they could have some regular time together with peers while adjusting to life in a new country.

For three years, one of the biggest events he organized as a “cap” to their year in this country was a whitewater rafting trip on West Virginia’s New River Gorge, and for those years he invited me to come along as an additional chaperone and driver (since the au pairs generally did not have their own car in this country, naturally.)   It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse.  A two-day trip on the New River Gorge in late spring or early summer is perhaps the perfect river for “newbie” whitewater rafters.  The first day provides some light rapids to get used to the water, and the second has enough big rapids to provide a real adrenaline rush without requiring too much in the way of technical maneuvers from the paddlers.  Plus, the trip provided a great opportunity to make new friends with young women from far away places like Poland, Hungary, and Germany without ever leaving this country.

#1) An Evening Walk on the Beach at Assateague Island National Seashore – August 2007
There’s nothing like walking on a beach at sunset in the summer, when there is no longer a harsh sun beating down on you, and the sand is cool underfoot, and the water is still warm to the touch.  I snapped this picture by wading into the water and taking this picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus by looking back towards the shore, and the sunset off in the west.

This picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus has become one of the author's personal favorites.
This picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus has become one of the author’s personal favorites.

 

And that’s a “wrap” for the series.   If you missed any part of it, you may want to go back and check out:

Part I with #’s 21-30

Part II with #’s 11-20

Part III with #’s 1-10

 

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30 for 300 – Part II

In continuing celebration of having reached my milestone 300th U.S. National Park visited, I’m posting about 30 of my favorite memories from my national park visits thus far.

Click here for Part I – #21-#30.

#20) Hiking to Mt. Olympus Viewpoint at Olympic National Park – August 2003
National parks are often places for testing our limits.  On a visit to the vast Olympic National Park in Washington, my friend and I naturally hoped to catch a glimpse of Mount Olympus.  The only problem was that reaching any of the viewpoints for Mount Olympus required an extensive hike in to the interior of the Park.  My friend and I compounded the problem by insisting upon going for a loop trail – in this case, one that was a whopping 20 miles.  Suffice to say, we were neither suffiicently prepared nor properly conditioned for a hike of that length.  By the time we dragged ourselves back to the car, a couple hours after sunset, we were both completely and utterly exhausted.  Still, we did catch that glimpse of Mount Olympus!  Well, just barely, as we had to look for it between breaks in the clouds.

The author, catching a fleeting glimpse of the glaciers on Mount Olympus, midway through a massive 20-mile hike.
The author, catching a fleeting glimpse of the glaciers on Mount Olympus, midway through a massive 20-mile hike.

 

#19) Landing at Portsmouth Village on Cape Lookout National Seashore – July 2002
By coincidence, I have two hikes in a row that were both a little more than I had bargained for.  As mentioned in this Parkasaurus post,  Portsmouth Village is one of the best-preserved ghost towns and one of the most-difficult to reach Passport cancellations on the East Coast.  Just to get to the site, you need to take a ferry from the mainland to Ocracoke Island in Cape Hatteras National Seashore,  and then from there hire another boat to take you over to Portsmouth Island.   The ghost town of Portsmouth Village was interesting enough, but what my friend and I were completely unprepared for were the absolute clouds of mosquitoes!   I remember applying multiple layers of high-strength Deet, and still seeing the mosquitoes line up on my blue jeans trying to find a way in!   Fortunately, the kind Park Rangers on the island took mercy on my friend and I gave us a ride on their Gator to help speed along our visit!  No, they didn’t actually let us drive it – but they did let us pose for this photograph!

The author and his friend, escaping the mosquitoes any way they can – with the help of some kind Park Rangers.

 

#18) Hiking the Savage River Trail in Denali National Park & Preserve – September 2008
By contrast, I have nothing but fond memories of this hike in Alaska’s Denali National Park & Preserve.  Our first day in Denali, my wife and I took an all-day bus tour out to Wonder Lake, which of course has been made famous by the photography of Ansel Adams.  Although we weren’t lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley on that day, we had enough exciting encounters with Alaskan wildlife to fill a scrapbook full of memories.  For our second day, we decided to head out on our own to enjoy some of the Alaskan solitude.  The Savage River Trailhead is the furthest point into the Park that you can drive your own vehicle without a special permit, and this late in the season, we seemingly had this part of the park all to ourselves.   Even though it was only Labor Day weekend, this was already pretty late in the visitaiton season for Denali – indeed, the plants on the tundra were already beautiful fall colors of red and gold.   The image that sticks with me from this trip, however, is reaching the end of the marked trail and seeing the Savage River valley stretch off into the seemingly infinite Alaska wilderness.

The Savage River heads off into the Alaskan wilderness, and the untapped possibilities ahead.

 

#17) Patriot Day at Minute Man National Historical Park – April 2005
The American Revolution began with the “shots heard ’round the world” in the villages of Lexington and Concord, an event now marked every year as Patriots’ Day in the State of Massachusetts.  Normally, visiting a national park in the morning is a good way to beat the crowds – but not on Patriots’ Day in and around Minute Man National Historical Park.  A reenactment is held each year on Lexington Green (technically not part of the National Park Service’s property), followed by commeorative ceremonies at Old North Bridge in Concord.  The event begins  in Lexington at 5:30am – and literally every parking lot in the village of Lexington is packed.  Savvy locals get there even earlier than that with step ladders to provide viewing points for their young children.  The reenactment event itself, true to history, only lasts a few minutes; the Americans fire a few shots, the British fire back, and the Americans run,   Afterwards, it seems that almost everyone heads over to the local Catholic Church, located just off the Green, to enjoy a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local Boy Scout Troop.  Smart thinking by those Scouts!

The statue of the Minute Man, located just off Lexington Green, in the soft glow of sunrise on Patriots’ Day.

 

#16) Sequoia National Park, Home of the Big Trees – August 2009
In 2009, I attended my first Convention of the National Park Traveler’s Club, held that year at Sequoia National Park.  It was great to spend the weekend with so many people who were dedicated to visiting the U.S. National Park System, especially in such a stunning setting.  Although I had previously seen the world’s tallest trees at Redwood National Park, it was little preparation for seeing the true giants of the Kingdom of Life growing on the edges of alpine meadows.  Looking up, it can be somewhat hard to comprehend the soaring heights of the Redwood.  On the other hand, when you stand at the base of sequoia that is many times the circumference of any other tree you have ever seen, there is no mistaking that you are in the land of giants.

Sequoias often grow best on the edges alpine meadows, which create particularly picutresque settings.
Sequoias often grow best on the edges alpine meadows, which create particularly picutresque settings.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the sheer size of these trees quite like this picture of a toppled sequoia.  Even laid flat on its side, the sequoia still towers over the trees around it.

Sequoias remain larger than life, even in death.
Sequoias remain larger than life, even in death.  Yes, that is young sequoia from the next generation in the distance.

 

#15) Waking up to Bison at Breakfast at Theodore Roosevelt National Park – July 2004
If you talk to enough travelers in the U.S. National Parks, many of them are likely to agree: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota (of all places!) is one of the true hidden gems of the whole U.S. National Park System.   I previously blogged a little bit about this Park back in December 2014. and highlighted the spectacular scenary, the history of Theodore Roosevelt’s days as a rancher in this area, and the unusual rock concretions in the shape of mushrooms.  On my trip in 2004, however, the biggest surprise was waking up in the morning in the Juniper Campground in the Park’s North Unit to the sounds and smells of herd of bison wandering their way through the campground!   I guess that when you are bison, you go where you please, and in this case, that was right past our tent!   Normally, Park Rangers wisely advise everyone to keep a very respectful distance from bison – but in this case that wasn’t an option!  Suffice to say that I got as close to the snorting and grunting bison as I will ever want to be.   Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and the memories were unforgettable!

With a site like this right outside your tent, you don't even need to wait for your coffee in the morning!
With a site like this right outside your tent, you don’t even need to wait for your coffee in the morning!

 

#14) Father’s Day Riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad at Cuyahoga Valley National Park – June 2013
Like many young boys, my now-four-year-old Juniot T-Rex has long had a love affair with trains.  So when travels to visit family took us through northeast Ohio on Father’s Day weekend in 2013, there was an obvious way to combine daddy’s love of national parks and son’s love of trains – a trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.   Suffice to say my little T. Rex was beside himself with joy to be riding the train.  The conductors even let him help punch the tickets while on board.   The train  railroad provides service from nearby Canton to various stops throughout the Park, and runs frequently enough that it can even be used to support a short visit or hike within the Park before being boarded for a return trip.

A trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a joy for kids both big and small.  Photo from 2005.
A trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a joy for kids both big and small. Photo from 2005.

 

#13) Backpacking with Friends at Death Valley National Park – January 2009
On my first visit to Death Valley National Park, in January 2005, I remember feeling profoundly small.  That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering that Death Valley has one of the largest vertical elevation gains in the country, from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin to more than 11,000 feet in elevation on nearby Telescope Peak.

In January 2009, I returned with two of my friends from college for an overnight trip in the Death Valley backcountry.   Backpacking is itself a humbling experience, especially in a desert park like Death Valley, as everything you need for survival in the loneliness of the backcountry must be carried in with you.  After our excursion, we did take some time to take in the salt flats in Badwater Basin and enjoy the otherworldly landscape of the lowest point in the United States.

Three friends celebrating a successful hike to the back-country
Three friends celebrating a successful hike in the Death Valley back-country with some sight-seeing at the lowest point in North America.

 

#12) New Year’s Eve at the Lincoln Memorial – December 2007
I’ve previously blogged about my love for the Lincoln Memorial.   I’ve actually twice spent New Year’s Eve at the Lincoln Memorial.  The first time, in 1999, was for Washington’s commemoration of the turning of the Millenium.  That event was nice enough, with the highlight being when they shot fireworks off the scaffolding that was then-surrounding the Washington Monument.  The down-side is that it was very much a made-for-TV event.  So, when the TV Network went to a commercial break, everything stopped and you were reminded that you were standing in the cold and in the mud, with nothing to do until the commercial break ended.   So that event doesn’t make my Top 30.

However, eight years later I returned to the Lincoln Memorial on New Year’s Eve, with my then-fiancee, the future Mrs. Parkasaurus.  Many people may not realize, but Washington actually does not normally have an outdoor New Year’s Eve event.  So on December 31st, 2007 it almost felt like my fiancee had the illuminated Memorials on the National Mall to ourselves.   As we climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just before midnight, we shared that special moment  transitioning from one year to the next with just the security guard and two other couples who had similar ideas.  It was a fantastic New Year’s Eve like no other.

The view from the top of the Lincoln Memorial at night is one to be savored. Photo from July 2011.

 

#11) The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – September 2012
For the past four years, the National Park Service has put on a number of events marking the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Although as a family with two young children, we have attended fewer of these events than I might otherwise have liked, we definitely made it a special point to go to some of the events marking the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Harper’s Ferry, given our special connection to this Park.   We’re glad that we did.

On the night of September 12, 2012 costumed interpreters from the National Park Service helped recreate several scenes from the night of September 12, 1862.   That was the night that Union troops,  recognizing that their position was indefensible, abandoned the town of Harpers Ferry to be captured by the Confederates the next day.  Visitors were led by lantern light to various locations around the historic downtown where the costumed interpreters using material from actual letters and diary entries from 1862 really helped recreate some of the thoughts and emotions that various townspeople in Harpers Ferry must have been feeling on that night – both those who would be leaving, as well as those who would be left behind.   Quite simply it was not a night that I will not soon forget.

Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park is where history happens. Photo from April 2015.

I hope you enjoyed Part II of my 30 for 300 retrospective.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Part I with #’s 21-30, here is Part III with #’s 1-10, and here are the Honorable Mentions.

Part II Pictures

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January Stamps: A Yosemite Anniversary & More

Yosemite National Park is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2015.  This photo is from Parkasaurus' visit in Winter 2006.
Yosemite National Park is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2015. This photo is from Parkasaurus’ visit in Winter 2006.

 

I’m a little late again this month, but Eastern National has released its new Passport stamps for the month of January, and the list contains four brand-new stamps and five sort-of-new stamps.

First the brand new ones:

  • Yosemite National Park | 125th Annivesary 1890-2015
  • Lake Mead NRA | The Boulevard
  • Lake Mead NRA | Lakeshore
  • Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm NHA | Girdwood, AK

At Parkasaurus, we’re not really fans of single-year anniversary stamps, like this one for Yosemite National Park.  The typical Passport Stamp has an adjustable year that is good for 5-7 years, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to produce one that is specific to a single anniversary year.  Instead,  I’d much rather see the parks use their creative juices to create special stamps for their anniversaries, such as this particularly beautiful one for the recently-completed 75th Anniversary of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Natchez Trace

Meanwhile, its worth noting that until this past July, the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, was one of only a handful of National Heritage Areas without any Passport stamps at all.    It then added three of them in conjunction with the National Park Travelers Club’s annual convention this past summer.  This one, to be located at the Alyeska Resort’s Roundhouse Museum, will be its fourth stamp.   The other three are located at the Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward; the Chugach National Forest Visitor Center in Portage; and the Hope & Sunrise HIstorical & Mining Museum in the town of Hope.  The last one is particularly interesting, since it means that there are now Passport stamps located in both the towns of Hope, Alaska and Hope, Arkansas.

The last two new stamps are for Lake Mead National Recreation Area.   Lake Mead is the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, just to the south and west of Las Vegas, Nevada.   It apears that these two new stamps will be used to provide unique, place-specific stamps for two of this national park’s entrance stations, one located on Lake Mead Boulevard heading west out of Las Vegas from the north, and the other on Lakeshore Drive heading west out of Las Vegas from the south.  These two new additions will give Lake Mead NRA a total of at least 10 Passport Stamps, one at each of the park’s Visitor Centers, Ranger Stations, and Entrance Stations, along with a generic passport stamp without any specific location on it.

Finally, the Eastern National list also announced five “new” stamps for Olympic National Park:  Kalaloch Ranger Station, Mora Ranger Station, Quinault Ranger Station, Storm King Ranger Station, and Port Angeles Visitor Center.  I put new in quotes there, because each of these five locations has already had a slightly-different passport stamp.   What constitutes a “new” passport stamp is always in the eye of the beholder, of course, but for purposes of Parkasaurus, these stamps won’t add to the national stamp total.

Thus, based on the four new additions above, we now have a total of 1,954 Passport Stamps available out there to collect!

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Congratulations to Poverty Point National Monument

Poverty Point is an amazing site that also requires a bit of imagination.
Poverty Point is an amazing site that also requires a bit of imagination.

 

I’m a little late in getting to this news, but congratulations are in order for Poverty Point National Monument which was recently designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is quite an honor.  I like to think of the list of U.S. national parks as the 400-or-so most significant natural, historical, and cultural places in the United States (although there are some notable exceptions).  To be inscribed on the list UNESCO World Heritage Site, however, a place must be judged to be of “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity.  Although Poverty Point today may not be jaw-dropping to look at it, it is nevertheless the place of a remarkable story –  the location of the largest complex of preshistoric earthworks from its era in North America.

There are currently just over one thousand  sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list (1,007 to be exact), although more are added  each year.  Of those, Poverty Point is just the 22nd site from the United States to be included.   Of those 22, its not surprising that 13 of them are outright national parks.  This includes two of the first twelve World Heritage Sites designated in 1978, Yellowstone National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.   Others on the list include Grand Canyon National Park, Olympic National Park in Washington State, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Five more on the list, including Poverty Point, are also part of the National Park System as a national monument or national historical park.

An unusual case is Papahanaumokuokea (try pronouncing it as Papa-hana-umo-kuo-kea) Marine National Monument in Hawaii.   This area consists of the unpopulated northwest Hawaiian Islands and the surrounding ocean areas all the way out to Midway Island in the central Pacific Ocean.  Instead of being managed by the National Park Service, it is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

That leaves three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States  that aren’t operated as Federal sites at all.    One such site is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.   Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, is operated by a non-profit foundation, and the University of Virginia, of course, is operated by the State of Virginia.   The second such site is Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, a remarkable American Indian community that has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years.   The last such site is Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois – which preserves the remains of the largest known American Indian city in the present day United States.   At its height, Cahokia covered six square miles and had between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

Although the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is by all accounts doing a good job of preserving this extraordinary site for future generations, there nevertheless just seems to be something incongruous about a site simultaneous being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also part of a state parks system, rather than the U.S. National Park System.   No question thatbeing a state historic site, rather than a national historic site in the National Park System gives Cahokia a lower national profile than you might otherwise expect, and so there is in fact a local campaign underway to try and make it a national park.

Interestingly, Cahokia’s situation  bears an uncanny similarity to Poverty Point in this respect as well.   It turns out that although Poverty Point is designated as a national monument, it is still operated as State Historic Site by the Louisiana State Park Service.  This is due to a quirk of history and legislation.  Normally, when Congress wishes to declare a site a new national park it normally first authorizes creation of the park, and then specifies that the park will be effectively created once the Federal government is able to acquire the land for the park.  In this case, however, the Poverty Point National Monument Act of 1986 first established the park, and then authorized the National Park Service to acquire the land for the park either by donation or from willing sellers.   Apparently, at the time the Louisiana Congressional Delegation thought that a deal had been worked out whereby the State of Louisiana would donate the Poverty Point Site to the National Park Service for management as a national park.   Its not clear what happened then, but somehow there was a miscommunication, and the State of Louisiana decided that  they wanted to continue to manage this important site themselves.   Thus, today Poverty Point National Monument is a real anomaly in the National Park System – a national park where you won’t find any sign of the National Park Service.

Now that Poverty Point has taken its rightful place as a World Heritage Site, there’s certainly no question that it merits the national significance to be included in the U.S. National Park System.  In fact, as part of the dedication ceremonies this month, the State of Louisiana has officially renamed it from Poverty Point State Historic Site to Poverty Point Point World Heritage Site, in a ceremony that included National Park Service director John Jarvis.   Despite the unusual status, in my mind, the National Park System is a better place with Poverty Point included than without it.  Still, it would be nice to see an agreement worked out where Poverty Point could take its place as a full-fledged national park, with the consistent management provided by the National Park Service.

In the meantime, a trip to Poverty Point is truly a trip back in time.  Its a rarity in the United States to visit a place where the story is told in thousand-year time scales.   For example, at nearly 3,000 years old, the settlements at Poverty Point predate the famous Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado by some two thousand years!   Three thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks were developing their alphabet, David and Solomon are kings in ancient Israel, the ancient Chinese are developing mathematics ink painting, and at Poverty Point in Louisiana, American Indians are building a major center – a place whose purpose remains a mystery to this day, but which still speaks to those who came before us in this place.

A walking trail has been constructed over the remains of the major mounds at Poverty Point.

A walking trail has been constructed over the remains of the major mounds at Poverty Point.

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